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brian: the aalto library at mount angel is indeed exceptional. i've been twice now. and like you, on my last visit (i coordinated a trip for 15 students from PSU's arch department) i shot about 250 pictures in an hour. i wasn't very knowledgeable about aalto prior to my first visit and was floored when i first encountered him/it. i recently won the PSU arch dept travel fellowship for 2005... i'm going to finland this summer. guess what i'm going to see?


I almost feel forced to agree that this is work of art, but its very difficult. There seems to be a push to make the public like modernism. To me I look at the outside of this building and see a brick wall. There is no fine crafted details, no open windows, no spirit. Its a bunker. Its almost like to save money builders and developers convinced architects to embrase the cheapest form of development. They made concrete walls, limited windows and the box "cool". The inside of the building maybe nice, but from the outside it is really hard to love this place. Its just cold.


I had the pleasure of studying at the Danish International School two summers ago which included a two-week study tour through Finland, Sweden and Denmark. On the tour we saw several Aalto buildings including Villa Mairea and Saynatsalo (sadly no other libraries). I have to say that of the Aalto buildings I have visited and studied, Mt. Angel is arguably his best. Produced late in his career, it shares many similarities with his other libraries, but surpasses them in nearly every way - in the simplicity of the plan, the beauty of the entry sequence, the drama of the expanding section, and the fabulous quality of light.

In response to Cab: I realize the elevation fronting the central green may appear spare, but Aalto intentionally restrained the facade to allow the other three buildings - Damian, Aquinas and the Abbey Church/Monastery to be the more dominant buildings. Keep in mind that arguably the world's leading architect of the time period allows the other buildings on the campus to take the limelight, rather than creating some "look at me" facade that steals the show. In my opinion it intensifies the drama of the interior - which is a reflection of the core values of the Benedictine community which commissioned the building.

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